Country stars Cody Johnson, LeAnn Rimes, and Wynonna Judd joined forces with rock legends Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Chuck Leavell, Paul Rodgers, Slash and Warren Hayes for an iconic Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute in memory of founding member Gary Rossington, who passed away on March 5, 2023.
The tribute also comes on the 50th anniversary of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first album.
Dale Krantz Rossington, band member and wife of late guitarist Gary Rossington, attended the performance alongside fellow Lynyrd Skynyrd band members Johnny Van Zant and Rickey Medlock.
Peter Frampton made a rare appearance to introduce the group to the CMT Music Awards stage, four years after announcing he’d been diagnosed with inclusion body myositis, a degenerative muscle disorder.
“I’m here tonight to honor a dear friend and tourmate who we lost very recently. Gary Rossington was a southern rock icon and an original founding member of our beloved group, Lynyrd Skynyrd,” said the 72-year-old rock icon, who stood with a cane in seemingly good spirits. “Alongside Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins. Gary not only helped define the band’s sound, he inspired millions of fans and musicians,” continued Frampton. “He’s now joined his fellow Skynyrd bandmates in rock and roll heaven, but we will all enjoy their music forever.”
Performing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s timeless hits “Simple Man” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” Cody Johnson and Paul Rodgers led vocals with Billy Gibbons, Slash and Warren Haynes on electric guitar. Johnson seemed to feel right at home singing the southern rock anthems alongside the kings of the genre. Playing the role of “The Honkettes” were LeAnn Rimes and Wynonna Judd, who belted the background vocals with a passion only they could deliver.
Lynyrd Skynyrd announced Rossington’s death in a statement shared on their Facebook page on March 5. “It is with our deepest sympathy and sadness that we have to advise, that we lost our brother, friend, family member, songwriter and guitarist, Gary Rossington, today,” the band began. “Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and playing it pretty, like he always does,” the group continued. “Please keep Dale, Mary, Annie and the entire Rossington family in your prayers and respect the family’s privacy at this difficult time.”
Co-hosted by Kane Brown and Kelsea Ballerini, the 2023 CMT Music Awards featured performances from Blake Shelton, Carly Pearce, Carrie Underwood, Cody Johnson, Jelly Roll, Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Lainey Wilson, and Tyler Hubbard.
Additionally, the show included one-of-a-kind collaborations, including a 10th anniversary of CMT Next Women of Country celebration featuring Alanis Morissette with Lainey Wilson, Ingrid Andress, Madeline Edwards, and Morgan Wade. Gwen Stefani and Carly Pearce joined forces for a special collaboration, while Kane Brown and Katelyn Brown teamed up for the television premiere of their chart-topping duet, “Thank God.”
The Black Crowes and Darius Rucker delivered a first-time collaboration of “She Talks To Angels,” and Wynonna Judd and Ashley McBryde will also take the stage together.
The show also included a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan from Gary Clark, Jr. and a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute from Billy Gibbons, Chuck Leavell, Cody Johnson, Paul Rodgers, Slash & Warren Haynes and LeAnn Rimes & Wynonna Judd as honorary “Honkettes.”
Rising stars Avery Anna, Chapel Hart, Jackson Dean, Lily Rose, Nate Smith, and Megan Moroney made their CMT Music Awards performance debut on the Ram Trucks Side Stage.
Carly Pearce, Carrie Underwood, Charles Esten, Dixie D’Amelio, Dustin Lynch, HARDY, Ian Bohen + Jen Landon (Yellowstone), Jon Pardi, LeAnn Rimes, Madison Bailey (Outer Banks), Max Thieriot (Fire Country), Megan Thee Stallion, Noah Schnapp (Stranger Things), Parker McCollum, Peter Frampton, Shania Twain, Steve Howey (True Lies) and Travis Kelce appeared as presenters.
The coveted awards show aired live from the Moody Center in Austin, Texas on Sunday, April 2 at 8/7c on CBS. It was also available to stream live and on-demand via Paramount+.